Maddest of Minds

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Chapter Two - Double Trouble.

“No.”

Freyja fixed Blake with a glare, frustrated with that one word he kept saying. She had enough things to worry about, especially with an additional young presence around her house. She still had no idea why she had agreed to let Evangeline stay.

“It’s her choice, Blake,” Freyja insisted for the fifth time.

Blake grunted in disagreement. “Send the little devil away.”

Her lips pursed. That’s what would be wise – and Freyja always did what she thought was wise. But after getting a DNA match between Luna and Evangeline, she was hesitant to let the girl leave. It wasn’t because she suddenly loved her – she didn’t think she was capable of that emotion – but she owed Luna that much. Even if Luna had never told her that she had a goddamn family stashed away.

Freyja could not hear Luna’s excuses or reasons since she was dead, but it was irritating enough to make her want to shatter something. She needed some sort of justification… some kind of reassurance. She had gone mad after her friend’s death. The only purpose of her life was to avenge her death. And yet she hadn’t known this about Luna. It made her wonder about what else she didn’t know. If she knew Luna at all. It made her feel silly, as if the universe was laughing at her ignorance and lack of knowledge. It was pathetic and she detested it.

Shaking her head, Freyja turned back to Blake. “Like I said, let’s agree to let her decide.”

He crossed his arms, staring out the window of her office, his face carved out of granite. “She’ll refuse.”

Freyja lifted a brow, annoyed. “I’d like to hear the refusal from her, please.”

Blake exhaled through his nose. “I’m not letting you use my sister to help some charity case you picked off the streets,”

“Your sister can speak for herself,”

“She can and she will. But I’m still telling you to find someone else. I don’t trust that girl.”

Freyja squinted at him. “I don’t trust anyone else to do it,”

Blake snorted but didn’t say anything.

“Mila can handle Evangeline,” she further pressed.

His expression was skeptical. “Of course, she can,” he deadpanned. “I just don’t want her to,”

Freyja had had enough. “I don’t believe you have a say in which job she decides to accept. Just pass the message, or I’ll visit her myself.”

“Visit who?” a voice quipped from the doorway.

Freyja flicked her gaze to the woman who strutted in, heels clacking on the marble floors. Her arms were cloaked in bandages, an eyepatch covered her right eye, her russet hair was in a short ponytail. She grinned, and the claw marks that stretched from her disabled eye to chin became more prominent. She opened her mouth to greet them, and Freyja noticed the bandage on her chin.

Mila Lance had been covered in bandages the day Freyja met her, and she was never seen without them. No one knew what was beneath those dressings; if they were just for show or hid scars, but her gold and black eyepatch gave her a feral look that scared most away. Mila wasn’t classically beautiful, but her features were striking, and Freyja found beauty overestimated in any case.

Mila glanced at a glowering Blake. “Mad brother,” she observed before looking over at Freyja with an impish grin. “Demanding friend,”

Freyja smiled small. “We were just talking about you,” she told Mila, ignoring the defensive stance Blake took.

Mila covered her heart with a hand. “I’m thrilled to hear it.” She sank into the seat across Freyja and raised her eyebrows. “What’s up?”

“I have a job offer for you,” Freyja began, running her hands across her wooden desk, willing the anxiety to fade from her fingers.

“Which you won’t be taking,” warned Blake, scowling at the back of Mila’s head.

Mila’s eyes vaulted between Blake and Freyja twice. A smirk took over her face. “What’s up?” she simply repeated, a little more curious now.

Freyja’s expression turned dry. “I’ve taken in a girl of six. She’s my dead friend’s daughter. Uneducated, uncivilized, much too shy. I want you to teach her whatever you can – of course, only if you accept.”

Mila hummed in thought. “Luna had family?”

“It’s news to me as well,” Freyja muttered sardonically.

“The kid showed up in scraps and mouthed off like a heathen,” Blake grumbled. “You’re going to stay away from her, Mila. She’s carrying diseases for all we know.”

Freyja shot him a warning glance. “She has been tested. She’s clean, and she’s just six. I’d send her to actual school, but if anyone caught whiff of who she’s related to, or who she lives with, she’ll become a liability and another problem.”

Mila shrugged. “Why not send her away to live with one of your trusted families? She could study in peace and live a normal life. She won’t be able to do that here – especially with you.”

The knowledge wasn’t lost on Freyja. It was completely logical, and under different circumstances, she’d do exactly that. But she had given Evangeline her word – which was the only thing Freyja kept. Her moral compass might be nonexistent, but even she knew how cheap it was to go back on one’s word. There were other reasons she didn’t want to think about just yet, so she told the siblings what she thought was true.

“I want to keep her under personal surveillance,” Freyja mused, eyeing the stack of mail she had yet to sift through. “I want you to take her as a student – I don’t trust her with anyone else.”

Blake let out a long-suffering sigh. “Why educate her when you’re going to keep her hidden? Let her stay as she is,”

Freyja hid her scowl and restrained herself from kicking him in the face.

“We’re all bastards here, Blake,” Mila said sharply, shooting her brother a glare. “How would you feel being uneducated while living amongst aristocrats?”

Blake seemed unaffected but didn’t fight the issue again. “We’re nowhere near aristocrats,” was what he muttered.

Freyja lifted a shoulder. “We’re criminals with money to spare. There’s little difference.”

Mila winked at her.

Blake glowered at the sky.

The twins were the only two people she trusted. She had found them on the streets and offered them a job. They had stared at her with distaste.

“Yer dirty money ain’t welcome ’ere,” Mila had growled.

“We bastards ain’t easy to bribe. Move ’long if you know what’s good fer ye,” Blake had threatened and then had proceeded to suggest where she could shove her money.

Freyja hadn’t given up. For some reason, she went to their part of the streets daily and offered them more money. When the amount summed up into an outrageous offer, they had asked why the hell she was so persistent.

“Because you might have to kill on the job, and your hands are already dirty,” she had said.

“Because we are the same. We were all raised on the streets, and this is a chance for you to get rich,” she had offered.

What she hadn’t said didn’t hurt any of them.

I am lonely and tired of being the only one with blood on my hands.

I am exhausted and miss my only friend.

I killed the only woman I loved and there is work to be done.

I will use that knife in my desk if I go home alone one more time.

Because, because, because.

Two years later, and it didn’t matter. Two years later, she had grudgingly formed a civilized connection with Blake. Two years later, she had bonded with Mila and could even consider her a friend. It didn’t matter how they acted around each other; the only thing that really bonded them was loyalty to each other.

“I’ll do it,” Mila said now, nodding a little. “One more student is no big deal. Hasan and Mariah will welcome the company.”

Freyja nodded her thanks. She had trouble saying the words out loud to anyone because she was never too thankful.

Blake stiffened but wisely kept quiet. Freyja couldn’t help but roll her eyes. He was too overprotective over Mila, and to an extent it was understandable, but beyond that extent it became outrageous – not to mention controlling. It didn’t have anything to do with him looking down on women – if that were the case, Freyja was sure he would have told her as much; the man pulled no punches. It was simply because he wanted a better life for his sister, which was reasonable, but he overdid it a little at times.

“When do I get to meet the little miss?” Mila enquired with a grin.

“Be my guest and sought her out,” Freyja murmured, pulling the pile of paperwork closer. “Mrs. Lee must be done making her presentable.”

At that moment, Blake strode out so suddenly it made Freyja blink.

“You don’t suppose your brother is about to murder the girl?” she asked casually.

Mila snorted. “Don’t worry about him. Evangeline probably reminds him too much of himself, so he’s a little salty about it.”

Freyja lowered her eyes to a document and frowned. “The sooner he gets over his insecurities, the quicker we can get this done,”

Mila shifted in her seat. “So…”

Freyja knew that tone and it meant nothing but trouble. “So?”

“What’s the story? Evangeline just shows up out of nowhere and you decide to keep her here without investigating?” Mila’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “Don’t insult me.”

Freyja’s eyes snapped up and met Mila’s hardened one. She wouldn’t drop it, and Freyja had no patience for her nagging. Letting out a disdainful breath, she repeated the things Evangeline had told her. About a father, a half-brother, and close to no other relatives.

It still bothered her that Luna’s supposed family knew all about her when she wasn’t even aware they existed. It felt like a kick to the gut, especially since she had been extremely close to Luna and had confided in her. It troubled her greatly and she was determined to figure it out.

“Do you want me to investigate her anyway?” Mila questioned after a moment of taking in the information.

Freyja nodded briskly. “Yes. We need to be absolutely sure this isn’t a scheme.”

Mila stood and headed to the door. “I’ll let Blake know,”

“I don’t know how you tolerate that man,” Freyja muttered distractedly.

Mila paused and thought about it. “We lost everything else,” she finally said. “We didn’t have to lose each other, too.”

Freyja blinked as Mila disappeared out the door. For a moment, she wondered how it felt to appreciate a sibling. To actually be thankful for their existence. She had never known that kind of thing. Her brother had only snarled at her when he had his hands around her throat, and her sister had always been too drunk to converse with Freyja, the young useless sister.

Freyja rolled her eyes at the thoughts that tried to enter her head and shoved them away. There was work to be done, and she needed to take a lot more action and a do a lot less thinking. With a strange pair of twins, a little girl she didn’t know what to do with, and an incomplete revenge plan, things had gotten a lot more complicated.

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